Pressures push Panama Canal watershed to its limit


Climate change and other pressures are affecting Panama Canal operations. (Photo by Solarisys/Shutterstock)

Water-supply pressures created by El Niño, climate change, population growth, and new canal locks have pushed the Panama Canal watershed to its limits. The pressures, in turn, are affecting canal operations and prompting discussion of long-term fixes that in some cases call for the construction of artificial lakes. The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is already taking stopgap steps to address diminished water levels in Lake Gatún, the enormous artificial water body that serves as a key canal water-storage reservoir and navigation link. In April, it lowered the maximum allowable vessel draft to ensure large ships size their cargo so they don’t touch bottom in the drought-shallowed channel. The restriction, which decreases the maximum draft to 47.5 feet from 50, affects Neopanamax vessels, the ships designed to take advantage of new, larger locks. And the authority plans to limit canal transits to an average of 31 per... [Log in to read more]

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